Living in Dubai
Religion and Daily Life
Even though Dubai is governed by Islamic law, it is a very tolerant and cosmopolitan city and all visitors are welcome. Religious traditions are an essential part of life in Dubai, so even though the dress code is pretty liberal, knees and shoulders should be covered and spaghetti strips or low cut tops may be viewed as offensive.
Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting is taken very seriously and may influence daily life during this time for non-muslims. Office hours are reduced and restaurants might be closed. Smoking, eating and drinking is banned in public places between sunrise and sunset and even though alcohol might be available in 5-star hotels, dancing and loud music are forbidden.
Language and Communication
Arabic is the official language but English is widely spoken and and all restaurant menus, road signs and other information is available in both languages. English newspapers, radio stations and TV broadcasts are also available in English to make life for expats in Dubai more enjoyable.
Cable TV is available in Dubai through different providers and there are a wide variety of radio channels both AM and FM in different languages, mostly to keep people updated about traffic jams.
Working in Dubai
Everybody who wants to work in Dubai or the UAE has to have a valid employment visa. It is possible though to come as a visitor or tourist and search for a job during the allowed stay. If you are lucky enough to find a job during your visit, you will have to leave the country until your employment visa is released.
Foreigners applying for a work or residence visa need a UAE national as sponsor, in case of the working visa the employer usually acts as such. The sponsor has to do all the administrative work on behalf of the foreigner and is responsible for his or her behaviour, so it is in the sponsor’s own best interest to check out the future employee and help him or her to adjust to their new life in Dubai.
Traveling/Playing in Dubai
Getting Around in Dubai
Public transport is the cheapest means of traveling in Dubai. An extensive web of public buses is operated in Dubai as well as metro rail and taxi services.
Taxis are metered according to to distance traveled and there are different types of taxis for women, families and disabled persons.
The Dubai Metro rail system is fully automated and works without a driver, mostly underground to avoid the traffic jams in the city.
Things to Do
Many hotels in Dubai are located on the Jumeirah stretch and have their own beach access, Tourists are allowed to wear bikinis at the hotel pools and beaches but should cover up when going into the city.
Shopping in Dubai is a must, as its huge malls offer the best brands offered worldwide. And if you want to ski inside, visit an aquarium or watch a movie, you are at the right place in those malls.
Other places to see are the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Wadi Water Park or you can enjoy golf, dune bashing, go on a balloon ride over the Arabian desert or just enjoy Dubai’s nightlife with international stars performing life on stage.
Investing in Dubai
Foreign investors are very attracted to Dubai due to its various free zones. There are more than 20 Free Zones operating in Dubai, each one designed around one or more business industry categories. Foreign-owned businesses are offered a business licenses by the free zone authority within those categories and owners get 100% ownership, tax exemptions and office or warehouse facilities.
Another good investment opportunity in Dubai lies in Real Estate. Dubai property is open to any investor from anywhere in the world and prices tend to go up. Previously, a person investing over Dh 1 million in real estate was automatically granted a three year temporary residence permit. Today the UAE government offers only a six-month visa called the “Property Holders Visa” which allows foreign investors to stay in the UAE for up to six months. To qualify for this visa, the property must be worth over Dh 1 million and the property must be owned by an individual person.
Retiring in Dubai
At first site Dubai seems like the ideal place to retire. It has a stable economy, attractive tax-free returns are promised on investments and there are no taxes on pensions, rental income, capital gains, inheritances or property transfers.
But life in Dubai is expensive, real estate prices may soon surpass prices in London and health care even though very good is very expensive. Retirees can either apply for a resident visa which has to be approved by the immigration department or they can form a company and stay on an Investor’s visa. To do that money is needed and the person forming the company has to stay in a key position as CEO for example.
Dubai’s health services are internationally recognized to be of good quality and comparable to other developed countries.
Health care insurance is not compulsory for all employers. Foreign workers may either obtain their own health insurance or apply for a health card issued by the DOHMS. Public hospitals only accept foreign patients with health cards but on an emergency basis only.